Ten-month-old twins Paul and Pierre nestle into the protective embrace of their mother, Akouvi. They are the picture of health, but the contented scene belies the struggles they have endured.
The family live in a suburb of Togo's capital, Lomé. The boys' father struggled with alcohol addiction and left Akouvi to raise two children and prepare for the birth of the twins on her own. Having already lost twin babies in infanthood, Akouvi was fearful for her unborn children.
However, with rent to pay and hungry mouths to feed, she had little time to focus on herself and certainly couldn't afford antenatal care or contemplate giving birth in a hospital. "During the pregnancy, I fainted many times. I prayed every morning for help," she says sadly.
As her pregnancy progressed, her anxiety increased. In Togo, five in every 100 babies don't survive their first year of life, and one in every 58 mothers will die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
When the time came for Akouvi to deliver her sons, she was alone and frightened. But God heard her prayers.
Akouvi was renting a small home from a woman who attended the Kpeme Baptist Church. When the woman arrived to collect her monthly rent, she found Akouvi cradling a newborn baby in a pool of blood. She immediately rushed to her pastor.
"The project was able to intervene and send her to the nearest medical centre where she received assistance to deliver the second baby," remembers Pastor Comla Agbeko. "I believe that the woman wouldn't survive without the intervention of the project, and the second baby would have died at birth."
The boys weighed barely three pounds – the same as a bag of sugar. They were dangerously weak, and Akouvi was so malnourished that she struggled to provide enough milk for the hungry babies. But the intervention of the local church meant that Akouvi was no longer alone.
Akouvi was immediately registered into the church's Child Survival programme, where the project workers kept a close eye on her and her children. They ensured Akouvi got the very best medical care and have continued to support the family ever since.
"I receive milk for the twins, medical care and education to be a good mother. Since my registration, the problems of food shortage and how to get to the hospital have ended," says Akouvi, her face lighting up with joy. Akouvi can also take comfort in the knowledge that both Paul and Pierre will become Compassion sponsored children when they are old enough.
Since January 2020, the Child Survival Intervention at Kpeme Baptist Church has been funded by Compassion UK supporters who generously donated to our Different Path Appeal. The appeal raised an incredible £2.2 million, including match funding from the UK government. The funds are being used to help Child Survival Interventions across Togo to protect women during pregnancy and ensure their babies have a healthy start in life.
Through the intervention, trained community workers based in the local church work closely with mothers and caregivers to help them access life-saving medical support, health screening, hygiene supplies, nutritious food baskets and education.
As Akouvi can testify, "Prior to my registration in the survival programme, my life was a mess. I would like to thank God wholeheartedly for the life of the donors. May God continue to bless you a hundred times for what you give to others."
Praise God for Akouvi and her family! We're so thankful for our generous supporters and our church partners who are making a difference. If you are interested in assisting mothers and babies, do visit our Child Survival Interventions page!